Based in Morris Plains NJ, STA is the first club in the US to have fully implemented the Beyond Pulse technology within their program. STA’s Boys Director of Coaching, Tom Shields, foresaw the potential benefit a partnership with Beyond Pulse could have on the development of his coaching staff, as well as the players at STA. Shields explains, “There is a need in youth soccer for a tool that can enhance how coaches approach training and games. One that replicates and models the “best practice” utilized in elite environments. Team selections, practice designs, game schedules, etc., should be underpinned by insight as opposed to simple intuition so that we can make sure we are able to facilitate optimal performance and development. Beyond this, considering the professional nature of the job for coaches within clubs like ours, there should be a layer of accountability to the job we do and the standards we are expected to meet. Ultimately we are responsible for the development and well-being of children. Having a tool that can provide an objective insight into the nature of the practices that take place, something that drives those standards of performance higher, is incredibly valuable. In my opinion, this is not just for the club and people in roles like mine, but the parents and players too. Beyond Pulse offers us exactly that opportunity in a wonderfully simplistic way.”
For Tom and STA, the daily training reports provided by Beyond Pulse allow for immediate feedback on training sessions and games subsequently leading to important opportunities for self-reflection. Shields says, “The session report provides objective feedback based on the data attained. Therefore, our coaches’ self-reflection on their session isn’t based solely from their own, sometimes skewed perspective. They can marry their reflections with an impartial data driven insight, meaning any modifications and adjustments made for future practices are done so from a truly informed perspective.”
This pairing of perspective and data results in huge potential in behavior change for coaches. For example, a coach may run a practice that included the use of lines or more isolated skill development opportunities. Accompanying this may be a lot of coach led demonstrations or interventions to discuss execution or progressions. The data will therefore reflect the participation levels / time spent on a task by the players which could be significantly lower than what the coach had perhaps intended. Considering the limited amount of contact time coaches often have with their players during a week, maximizing the value/benefit of it is often a significant concern for clubs and coaches alike. An adjustment for future practices may then be seen by accommodating a more inclusive games based/constraints led approach that puts the player at the center of their learning, in turn maximizing their participation levels.
Another positive that STA has reported with their Beyond Pulse partnership is the discussion it has sparked between coaches about their training sessions. The session data provides a tool for coaching collaboration. “Using the session report,” Shane Bullock – Executive Director – states, “we have another avenue through which to discuss what works and what doesn’t work within our sessions. We are looking to stretch our players both mentally and physically in an effort to ensure highly purposeful training is witnessed and we can now see whether our practice was designed in such a way that this was realized.”
Another obstacle Beyond Pulse is capable of helping clubs overcome, is the often crazy and intensely packed schedules that define youth soccer in the USA. According to Tim Verschuren, Girl’s Director of Coaching, “When it gets in the swing of things, we can potentially have three training sessions in the week, and then depending on the league, cup, or tournament, play up to three games on the weekends. We are talking about a lot of exertion on the player’s bodies.”
These packed schedules bring with them concerns of over-training and an increased potential for injury. A recent trend to combat the negatives of an over-packed schedule is periodization, which is the systematic planning of training so that player performance is maximized and the risk of injury reduced. The data generated by Beyond Pulse’s Smart Belt perfectly complements the trend towards periodization planning. Verschuren goes on, “Using Beyond Pulse, we know when we can push the players and when we need to take our foot off the gas and allow them time to recover so they can maximize training time and in-game performance.”
Educating coaches to improve player health, development, and performance is what drives us. Even in our infancy, Beyond Pulse is clearly enhancing the provision of coaching education at a major US soccer club. We are excited for more clubs to share in this vision, to become partners and together, to change the game.